On fake indignation and how the media fall prey

April 19, 2012

Or how to funnel indignation for the good of a company, crisis, or cause

BAITED: Media are hooked by Nugent
and Rosen’s political polo play

The Secret Service needs to visit Ted Nugent, file charges, and lock him up for suggesting that a second term Obama Administration will either get him killed or put him in jail. Hilary Rosen has defamed every woman in America by saying that Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life” for choosing to be a stay-at-home mom.

The season of indignation is upon us, and the media are once again falling prey to the feigned outrage and hyperbolic horse hockey bred during the political season. Let’s face it. Nothing that Ted Nugent has ever said or done has ever deserved a download on Spotify, let alone front page coverage in The Washington Post. But Wango Tango, he spouts off his big mouth at the NRA convention and suddenly Ted becomes a dangerous man and symbol of right wing ignorance.

Let me share a little secret. Ted has always been a symbol of ignorance. I mean, it’s not like “Yank Me, Crank Me” or “Cat Scratch Fever” was “Blood on the Tracks.” Ted was a joke in the 70s, a joke when he fronted Damn Yankees, and a joke on every one of his cancelled TV reality shows, all based on Ted’s love for fresh kills.

Hilary Rosen relishes fresh kills, too. For years, she has served as a fake news commentator, daily working in her indignation on CNN while parroting the DNC talking point of the day. The woman hasn’t had an original thought since picking her prom dress in the 80s. So why take her seriously, one way or the other? Why the indignation? Certainly, the political class is welcome to counter-punch, but Ted’s no heavyweight and Hilary, well she’s about as significant as a WWF referee.

What can PR people learn from the game of indignation?

1. Save it, and only invoke it when it’s real and called for. Responding to Ted only serves to elevate his Motor City Madness to a national status. He doesn’t deserve it.

2. Build your case on facts and reason. Sure, it’s not as salacious. But Hilary’s comment will come and go as a momentary flash of ignorance based on decades of brain dead babble. In the end, it’s not about Ann Romney, it’s about the direction of the country. Attacking Hilary just diverts the conversation.

3. Don’t tell your opponent’s story. By responding to Hilary, her opponents are forced to repeat her thesis, that Republicans are mounting a war on woman. Extending that conversation just keeps ingraining the message in the electorate’s psyche.

4. Share your indignation privately, directly with the media. If the opponent is outrageous, prove it, privately, to the media, and then let them expose it. Criticism is better served up by third parties, not directly by the feigned and faked, like some Sidney Crosby flop of a missed cross check.

Indignation is the stuff of political theater. But in the real world of public relations, it rarely wins friends and persuades others. And an outraged response by a company or client is all too often seen as simple whining or jealousy. Better to stay off the low road and assent higher when it’s your turn to tell your story.

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